What's ahead for PBS, Part 2. Funding: Enough to thrive or just survive? Income sources for public television
Tried-and-true methods Pledge drives, auctions, lotteries. Individual stations have tried just about every gimmick. Pledge drives, which interrupt regular programming, anger many viewers, but they usually bring in large sums of money. In some areas, auctions of contributed items provide a healthy source of financing. A PBS station in Alaska has been experimenting with bingo and lotteries, while in North Dakota use of gambling tables has actually been authorized for PBS fund raising. Although all of these me thods bring in some revenue, only direct appeals for funds from viewers bring in any appreciable amount.Skip to next paragraph
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Leasing of facilities. PBS organizations with good studio production facilities can lease these for profit.
Program sales. Cable, low-power television, and videocassettes have created a growing market for recycling material produced by public-television stations. Controversial proposals
Commercials. PBS is experimenting with ``enhanced underwriting,'' which gives program underwriters more time to identify themselves and explain their services before or after programs without any interruptions in the middle. WNET-TV in New York City, a PBS station, is also selling 30-second spots at the beginning or end of shows for announcements that conform to its special standards.
Channel swaps. Pending FCC approval, PBS stations could trade powerful VHF channels for less powerful UHF channels and a large cash payment.
Excise tax on TV sets. The British Broadcasting Corporation's television operations have been funded mainly by a yearly fee paid by owners of TV sets. US manufacturers have fought such a system in this country from the very start, contending that it would infringe on free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
It is expected, however, that video copyright owners will soon mount a drive to place an excise tax on sales of videocassette players, with the revenue being channeled to the copyright owners to compensate for the widespread unauthorized copying. Such a move might provide momentum for a new campaign for an excise tax on televisions.
Fees levied against commercial broadcast stations that now have free use of airwaves. Before deregulation, the Federal Communications Commission made some public-service demands on TV stations in exchange for their free use of the airwaves. Now these requirements are being relaxed. Some observers contend that the lifting of the restrictions should be accompanied by a new fee to broadcasters, with revenues being used to fund public television and to defray the costs incurred by the FCC in its regulatory role. Still more ideas under consideration
Subscription TV. A public-TV pay channel for cultural programming has already been suggested, but the marketplace does not seem ripe for that yet.
Instructional television. Distribution of pay-television instructional programs to subscribers either directly or by master antenna systems.
Direct-broadcast satellite (DBS). This system would offer pay services direct from satellite to homes.
Teletext. Public TV stations could provide print information, using part of their television broadcast signal, that only specially equipped home sets could receive.